Today we got wind of more information about the impending arrival of Samsung’s Galaxy F, a super-charged version of the Galaxy S5 which aims to revive Samsung’s reputation as the world’s top smartphone designer. A QHD screen with 3GB of RAM and the latest Snapdragon 805 processor sound really exciting, but will they go ahead dump the plastic finish and feel? If so, is this evidence that Samsung is willing to finally alter is flagship design strategy?
MWC 2014 launch, a collective ‘Meh’…
Samsung shift more mobile technology than anyone else on the face of the Earth, currently dominating most Western markets and the current high-end smartphone segment – at least in terms of units shipped. However, their flagship offering in the 5 inch sweet spot, the Samsung Galaxy S5 was actually greeted with a resounding ‘Meh’ when it first popped its head up back during Mobile World Congress in March.
There were a few things many of us Mobile Geeks were really hoping to see; things that meant the next generation of devices had landed with the Korean device behemoth leading the way. I wanted Samsung to woo me to its side with a QHD display, more memory and storage draped in build quality that would make me gasp.
Alas, instead we got Full HD screen, 2GB of RAM with the same storage options. Ok the processor was the new Snapdragon 801 that would quickly establish itself as top dog with a slew of top, top industry design wins. The 16MP rear camera is also one of the best on the market and the screen itself, despite being only Full HD, looks fantastic.
But where was the step up in build quality?
I think the thing really that got people on its wrong side, was that Samsung simply decided not react to advancements made by HTC and Sony in the area of build quality. Samsung was sticking to its guns, with arguably an even more plastic-centric design and build concept than the previous generation. Its in hand feel was way off what we were now expecting from a top, top 5 inch smartphone.
The faux leather back divides opinion in the Mobile Geeks office – Sascha quite likes it, but certainly, I am no fan. Nicole physically balks when in direct contact. The plastic edges too are just much too cheap feeling – worlds away from the glass and aluminum build of the Sony Xperia Z2, or the etched bullet metal feel of the HTC One M8.
In our review we gave the Galaxy S5 a fairly decent score of 79/100. Decent, but far from spectacular, and one of the key areas the device dropped points was in ‘design’ where we awarded a 7/10. It sounds harsh, but I now feel that a 7 was probably quite generous. This is an opinion formed having spent more time with both the HTC One M8 and the Sony Xperia Z2– in my opinion, the true flagship heavyweights in this current generation. The Galaxy S5 is an ‘also ran’, to use a horse racing term.
But it’s not just HTC and Sony, other cheaper devices like the Xiaomi Mi3 and the OnePlus One are now ahead of Samsung in terms of build quality. The general quality of devices coming out of china from Hauwei, OPPO, Gionee and others seems to improve exponentially with each generation. The Samsung board must surely have felt lost and at sea. Something must be done.
The general consensus agreed with our assessment; the Samsung Galaxy S5 was a good phone, a damn good phone. It just wasn’t brilliant, at a time when the world was really looking for them to do something brilliant, stepping up to the challenge from Japan and Taiwan. Since the release of the Samsung Galaxy S5, the company has plenty of time to digest the feedback from us reviewers, and consider their next step. Would the world’s collective shrug of the shoulders nudge them into a change of direction?
A Time to React: Galaxy F ‘n Prime
Early last month news broke that Samsung were implementing an in-house staff reshuffle, with its mobile design head Chang Dong-hoon, being moved to another position that sounds even better than his old one, but one that will ultimately equate to less influence on the actual smartphone design ethos. Meanwhile, Lee Min-Hyuk was promoted to Chang’s old position, gaining responsibility for company’s next step in the smartphone device segment.
The reaction from many quarters was that the Samsung HR reshuffle was as much an open and overt message that the company was acknowledging its failure to really innovate at the highest level, and was willing to make serious changes to get back on track. Changes in personnel do not always lead to changes in core design philosophy. Would Lee be given free reign?
Talk soon began to emerge of a Samsung Galaxy S5 Prime, followed by noises about the Galaxy F. It seems more likely than ever that these are one and the same device, essentially a suped up version of the S5 that could turn out to be the ideal antidote to Samsung’s ills.
The Samsung Galaxy F is predicted to hit the mobile g-spots the Samsung S5 missed, with a 5.3-inch QHD (2560x1440p) display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, 3 GB of RAM. Nice. Very nice indeed. But what the so called leaked images to nothing to confirm, is the revised chassis design. Will we see Lee implement a new chassis design that will better address the challenge from competitors? The images certainly seem to look fairly ‘metallic’ but there are plenty of ‘metallic’ finished plastics on the market. We want a uni-body design that feels solid, or least the introduction of more robust materials on some level.
Even if the outer shell is indeed made of one, thin piece of aluminum, replacing a thin plastic one for a thin metal one, will we be impressed? I have applauded Samsung’s philosophy of removable batteries, and will continue to do so, but in the interest of creating an industry-leading hand feel, they may find that solid body designs are the only way forward. even if means disposing with replaceable batteries.
If it turns out that the back cover of the Samsung Galaxy F is actually made of plastic, I will be shaking my head with vigour. Official launch date of the Galaxy F (or possibly Galaxy Prime) has yet to reach our ears, but you can expect it to arrive soon enough for a premium price tag north of $800. We await with baited breath.